By: Farnoush Amiri & Colleen Long
The House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection issued subpoenas Tuesday to Rudy Giuliani and other members of Donald Trump’s legal team who filed bogus legal challenges to the 2020 election that fueled the lie that race had been stolen from the former president.
The committee is continuing to widen its scope into Trump’s orbit, this time demanding information and testimony from Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Boris Epshteyn. All four publicly pushed Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims in the months after the election.
“The four individuals we’ve subpoenaed today advanced unsupported theories about election fraud, pushed efforts to overturn the election results, or were in direct contact with the former President about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democratic chairman of the panel, said in a statement.
Epshteyn in a tweet called the committee illegitimate and its efforts part of a “witch hunt” against Trump and his supporters. The others who were subpoenaed did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Trump’s legal team sought to overturn the election results in the battleground states by filing lawsuits alleging widespread irregularities with ballots and claims by partisan poll watchers who said they couldn’t see everything going on, in part because of precautions taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 lawsuits were filed, mostly in battleground states.
The lawsuits were soundly batted down in the courts, sometimes within days of filing. But the legal challenges and the multiple press conferences held by Giuliani and others helped galvanize Trump supporters behind the idea that the election had been stolen, even though Trump’s own attorney general said there was no evidence of widespread fraud, and local officials said it had been the most secure election in history.
The committee said it is seeking records and deposition testimony from Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York City mayor once celebrated for his leadership after 9/11, over his promotion of election fraud claims on behalf of Trump. The panel is also seeking information about Giuliani’s reported efforts to persuade state legislators to take steps to overturn the election results.
Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department notified a federal appeals court that it planned to turn over some Trump records sought by the Jan. 6 committee by 6 p.m. Wednesday barring a new court order.
Trump sued last year to try to stop the committee from receiving notes and other documents even after Biden waived executive privilege. While the federal appeals court in Washington rejected Trump’s request, the court delayed any release of records while the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case.
The Justice Department argued Tuesday that the appeals court opinion doesn’t cover a batch of records for which Biden waived executive privilege after Trump originally sued. It said Trump had been given 30 days’ notice in mid-December to seek a new stay. The appeals court could still intervene to block any release.
Four days after the Nov. 3, 2020, election, while The Associated Press and other media outlets were calling it for Joe Biden, Giuliani held a press conference at a landscaping company in Philadelphia to announce his team planned to challenge the election results. It was the beginning of a pressure campaign to allot electoral votes in battleground states where Biden won over to Trump instead.
Ellis and Powell also appeared with Giuliani at press conferences, pushing false claims of election fraud, and Giuliani met with local elected officials to push false theories about corrupt voting systems. Powell was eventually removed from the team after she said in an interview she was going to release “the kraken” of lawsuits.